At State Convention, Texas Dems Push For Equality For LGBTQ People, Women, Immigrants

Julian Castro was the Texas Democratic Convention's keynote speaker.
Julian Castro was the Texas Democratic Convention's keynote speaker.
Marco Torres

Texas Democrats parsed few words describing how they really feel about the Republican policy crusade against LGBTQ people, women, immigrants and minority voters.

At this weekend's state Democratic convention in San Antonio, the Democrats unanimously approved their biannual party platform, which lays out the party's ideals and wishes. This year, those wishes heavily reflect the culture war playing out both in the presidential campaign and also Attorney General Ken Paxton's slew of lawsuits against the Obama administration, all backed by Republicans.

The state Dems voiced staunch support for transgender Texans' ability to use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity—especially in public schools, as the federal government directed last month. The state has sued over that; Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick said he would rather lose $3 billion in federal education funds than comply with the directive.

They backed  President Barack Obama's immigration reforms that grant undocumented parents and their children temporary work permits and a reprieve from the threat of deportation.. Texas sued over the reforms last year; the case rests with the U.S. Supreme Court.

And they supported the repeal of two controversial laws spearheaded by Republicans that are also before the Supreme Court now: HB2, which would substantially restrict women's access to reproductive healthcare and abortions more than it already has; and the Texas Voter ID law, which a federal judge ruled would keep some minority voters away from the polls.

The Democrats also carved out some space to not-so-subtly call out specific Republican groups or people whose proposals or policies they disagree with.

In one case, the Dems criticized presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, saying they will "denounce efforts to build a border wall of any size and the unrealistic claims a country will pay for a border wall," the platform states. In another, the Dems undermined the foundation of many of the Republicans' platform policy goals, such as overturning same-sex marriage, saying, "government must not inhibit the free exercise of religion, but religion can never be used as an excuse to discriminate or harm others."

Although the platform touched on all of the key social issues permeating today's politics, it spent the most time urging education reform. Democrats called on Republicans to reverse the $5.4 billion public education cuts in 2011 that have left scores of schools across the state grasping for resources and struggling to retain teachers and aides. Democrats also considered students' educations to be sub-par in some subjects, particularly social studies.  

Of the State Board of Education, the Democrats said this: "All too often extremists on the State Board of Education have made a laughingstock of our state's process by approving curriculum standards and textbooks that violate the integrity and reliability of mainstream science and social studies, leading even conservative think tanks to call our social studies curriculum standards a 'politicized distortion of history.'"

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The Dems would also like to repeal campus carry and open carry, fully decriminalize and regulate marijuana like alcohol and cigarettes, and accept the federal Medicaid expansion—even supporting insuring undocumented immigrants. These issues are unlikely to pass in the Republican-controlled Legislature.

If there's anything the Dems were most hopeful of, however, it was that the circus that has become the Republican Party in this year's presidential race would work to their advantage. The Texas Democrats' favorite dynamic duo—rising-star twin brothers U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, who gave the keynote speech, and U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro—suggested that they could turn Texas blue by uniting voters against The Donald, turning them to the Democratic ticket.

Julian Castro, of course, yet again demurred when asked if he might be on that ticket as Hillary Clinton's VP pick. This time he was rather convincing, saying he is not being vetted and he "doesn't believe that's going to happen." 

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